Where'd you go, CAMJ? Five signs it's time to restart China Ate My Jeans.

First sign: The pile staring up at me in my writing room. Notice the folder labeled "Louisiana"? And Austin Kleon's book? Can there be two more glaring signs from the heavens? Finish what you began. So what if the 50-in-50 / state-by-state-in-50-weeks project should more accurately be called 50-in-150? Just do it.

Second sign: A skeleton hanging from a neighbor's oak tree. Time waits for no one. Still, when I get home I don't write my Louisiana blog post. I scroll through Instagram and wonder how Joanna Gaines can open a bakery, develop a shopping center, open a restaurant, a cafe, a bed-and-breakfast place and a grand hotel, launch her own line of furniture, rugs, giftware and her own cable channel. How's that possible? (1) She doesn't procrastinate. Ever. (2) She lives in the USA, where anything's possible given one's talent and ambition and ability to overcome procrastination. I decide to Google procrastination quotes.

"Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone."

--Pablo Picasso

“The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

--Annie Dillard

Thanks, Pablo and Annie. A bit dark in tone, but I get the message.

Third sign: So, I'm all set to write about the awesome seersucker dresses being sewn in Louisiana when I get sidetracked by the news that China's eaten the NBA's Houston Rockets. Gobbled the team up. Spit it out. The team's offense? Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey--in mainland China with his team for a game--tweeted his support for Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement:

“Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”

Less than an hour later this happened:

"Chinese sponsors pulled their money, television networks suspended their broadcasts and e-commerce platform yanked Rockets team merchandise and essentially made the team disappear."

--Wall Street Journal

Is anyone surprised by this? What did the NBA expect of a communist regime that outlaws free speech, creates a Great Firewall to censor and control the internet, tosses citizenry en masse into prison for their religious beliefs, harvests those prisoners' organs and sits down to eat the family pet for dinner?

And just when I think the image of NBA players kneeling in obedience to China's totalitarian masters can't get much worse, news trickles out that NBA security staff censored the free speech of American fans at preseason games in Philadelphia and Washington D.C., confiscating any banners that supported Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement. What? In America in 2019? How can this be? How could it not? Everything we own, use, carry, need is now made in China. We are all complicit in this mess.

Except Chip and Joanna Gaines, right? Thank goodness for these two! I turn to them for reassurance. They have the power to restore my faith in capitalism; in truth, justice and the American way.

Fourth sign: And so it comes to pass that I head over to my local Target to see Chip and Jo's Hearth & Hand with Magnolia collection. The NBA (and the rest of corporate America) may have its China Price, but Chip and Jo can't be bought. They're all about living local in Waco, Texas, about living their unique version of the American dream, about flipping houses, owning a ranch, raising kiddos, chicks, dogs and goats. About being authentic. They greet me at the entrance. Hi, Chip and Jo! Whew! Good to see you two!

Oh, the gorgeous stuff! Cream and black stoneware, faux wreaths, hand towels, candles...over 500 different items! Where to begin? First things first. Turning over an autumn wreath for my front door, the country of origin stares back at me:

What? No Waco? No homespun goodness? Say it ain't so, Chip and Jo! China came calling, and you agreed? Let me guess: you don't actually deal with China, you buy from a third party who deals with China. Your hands are clean, right? Sure, I get it. Good for you. Enjoy your bazillions. I leave Target without the wreath. I leave feeling out of step with the consumer world. The next morning something small but good happens.

Fifth sign: Two things, really. First, I watch the South Park episode called "Band in China." Watch it. You'll see what I mean. Chip and Jo should watch it. It'd make 'em cringe. By the way, as soon as it aired South Park was scrubbed from China. It never existed. You know, like the Tiananmen Square massacre. Never happened.

If South Park's creators--Trey Parker and Matt Stone--can stand up to China (and China-friendly Hollywood), then so can I, in my own small blogger way. But my site's out of date. Here's my convo with a random, faraway tech support person.

Me: “I need help updating my WordPress website. I haven't used it in like two years...”

Tech Support: “No problem. What’s the name?”

Me: “China Ate My Jeans.”

Tech Support: Laughter.

Me: “That’s ‘jeans’ with a ‘j'…I mean, if you weren’t sure…’”

Tech Support: “Yes, yes, I know!” More laughter. “I love that name! My sentiments exactly.”

Me: “Oh, good! Mind sharing where you’re located?”

Tech Support: “Philippines. And believe me, as I said, I truly appreciate your sentiment.”

Tech Support & Me: Shared laughter.

Not to make too big a deal out of it, but this brief interaction confirms my hunch: China's ever-increasing reach has everyone--not just me, not just Trey Parker and Matt Stone, not just the kowtowing players and managers of the NBA--more than a tad edgy. The laughter we share? Nervous. Like we're being watched. Like China hears us talking. That's okay. We just need to keep talking back.

Next up: Louisiana.